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Great Lakes Article:

Barrier to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes almost complete
Chicago Tribune
James Janega
March 27, 2009

A long-awaited permanent electric barrier built to keep invasive Asian carp in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal out of the Great Lakes could be up and running by the end of April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.

Workers spent the day repairing a series of cooling pipes necessary to chill the heavy equipment that creates the underwater electrical barrier.

"We're pretty confident, unless some other hiccup comes, that we'll be able to get the barrier up," said Army Corps of Engineers Col. Vincent Quarles.

The $10 million project has had to overcome technical challenges and funding shortages since it was begun five years ago just downstream from a still-operating but weaker "temporary" demonstration barrier.

Meanwhile, the behemoth jumping Asian carp endemic to the lower Illinois River moved northward as the barrier was imagined, designed, built and repeatedly overhauled.

Annual surveys now show their main population as far upriver as Starved Rock State Park, just below a lock and dam there. But one pioneering invasive carp was found in 2007 just 15 miles away from the demonstration barrier.

None have been found north of there, where the Cal-Sag Channel intersects with the Sanitary and Ship Canal connected with the Chicago River, officials say.

Ecologists and recreational boaters hope to keep the rapidly breeding, high-jumping and gargantuan fish out of the Great Lakes, where they could wreck havoc with coastal waters and make their way into hundreds of other streams. They have already crowded native fish out of the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, say state natural history managers and fishermen.

Rusted and pitted coolant pipes caused the latest delay in sending power into the permanent barrier, which was constructed a few hundred feet downstream from the demonstration barrier.

Those pipes were replaced Wednesday and Thursday, said Army Corps project manager Chuck Shea. The Corps said testing and verification would continue for the next month--as would further safety checks.

The existing barrier sends 1 volt of electricity into every cubic inch of water around the barrier--enough to harm anyone, but especially a child or pet who fell overboard. The permanent barrier is capable of sending four times that amount into the water, Quarles said.

The Corps has been working with the Coast Guard, industrial interests that use the canal for barge traffic and local marinas to expand awareness of the barrier.

The short version, said Shea: "Go straight through this area. Don't linger."


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